Women and Children First took part in Small Charity Week for the first time in 2014. We were so pleased with the results of the Ebay auction, which raised a fantastic £1,350, that we started planning really early in an endeavor to do even better in 2015.
Everyone in our small team thought really hard about their friends and networks and contacted anyone they thought could help. We were really delighted by the response. Our administrator tracked down a signed photo of Indira Varma, who plays Queen Ellaria Sand in Game of Thrones. Our generous trustee Patricia Croll donated a week in her luxurious holiday home in the South of France. Our amazing Patron Baroness Massey offered a private tour and tea for two at the House of Lords and our wonderful supporter, guitarist Tom McGuinness, donated a rare vinyl Manfred Mann album and persuaded all the original band members to sign it. Feedback from last year’s bid winners showed that the holiday and House of Lords tour were very special experiences for the people who won them.
It is deeply shocking that one woman still dies every two minutes from pregnancy related conditions that are preventable or treatable - 99% of these deaths are in developing countries.
Women and Children First’s Senior Programmes Manager, Ruth Duebbert, returned recently from Ethiopia. This is what she had to say about her trip:
“This was my first visit to Ethiopia and I was really struck by the difficult conditions facing pregnant women and their families. I visited a remote health centre where babies can be delivered but no emergency caesareans can be performed – for that you would need to travel 17 miles, most likely on foot.
More remote still, I met the manager of a health post who recalled delivering two babies in the middle of the night, one after the other. This was done by the light of his mobile phone and he was unable to wash his hands at all. There is no water or electricity at the health post.
As a mum myself I cannot even begin to imagine having to give birth in such conditions."
The challenges in Ethiopia, especially in rural areas, are immense. With funding from Comic Relief, Women and Children First has begun working with the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE) to set up 230 women’s groups, train 40 Health Extension Workers and 280 Health Development Army volunteers, introduce solar powered equipment, wells and an ambulance for emergencies.
Ethiopia has some of the world’s highest rates of maternal deaths and disabilities, with 19,000 women dying from childbirth-related causes each year. Every year, more than 257,000 children under age five die and 120,000 die in the first month of life. More than 60 percent of infant deaths in Ethiopia are newborn babies.
- Only 10% of births take place in health facilities.
- A staggering low 11% of births have a skilled attendant present
- Cultural factors and traditional beliefs result in 30% of women giving birth at home
- 60% see no value in skilled medical care.
Maternal and newborn health, family planning, midwife training and training in emergency obstetric and neonatal care are key priorities of the Ethiopian Government. But, despite efforts, the Government has not achieved its targets for increasing the use of facility-based maternal and newborn health services.
We are helping the Government to do more to raise demand to improve the range and quality of health services for mothers and babies.
This year is only the second time that the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights (#IntlMHDay) has been celebrated. We at Women and Children First are surprised that this is such a new initiative given that, even in 2015, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes.
There is an urgent need to increase global action on maternal health and rights. Reproductive rights are at the cornerstone of maternal health, but these rights are frequently abused in many different ways. Pregnancy, childbirth and HIV are the leading causes of death for girls and women of reproductive age and it is not just poverty or poor service provision that are to blame. Women are frequently subjected to disrespect and abuse by health providers during pregnancy and childbirth and reproductive rights are often neglected by governments and policy makers.
We are therefore joining with the maternal health community to call on governments, international institutions and other civil society organisations to recognise 11 April as the International Day of Maternal Health and Rights. We call on everyone to take action to establish, promote and protect maternal health and rights and ensure a comprehensive, inclusive and rights based approach to maternal health and rights.
We are proud that Women and Children First’s programmes contribute to this aim. Through our projects women become more aware of their rights and are empowered to demand improved care. Working together in groups, women gain confidence to express their health needs and wishes with their family, their community, health care providers and local decision makers. You can help them do this by making a donation to our work. Every £5 you give can improve a mother's chance of surviving pregnancy and childbirth.
May 5 is the internationally recognised day for highlighting the work of midwives and Women and Children First is celebrating their successes and thanking them for their marvelous work.
Midwives have helped women deliver babies since the beginning of history and today they play a big role in ensuring women have a safe and healthy pregnancy as well as delivering babies. They carry out antenatal and postnatal care, help with breastfeeding, run family planning services, and provide vital support and advice along the way.
The theme of this year’s International Day of the Midwife is “The World Needs Midwives Today More than Ever. Sadly the need is starkly real as midwives are in very short supply. There have been reports that more than half of Britain's maternity units are putting mothers and babies at risk because of a national shortage of midwives. This is of great concern, but the statistics pale in contrast to the position in many developing countries. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends one skilled birth attendant for every 175 pregnant women, but countries like Rwanda have only 1 midwife per 8,600 births.
Apart from being in short supply, midwives in many countries have to work without adequate equipment and medicines in inappropriate facilities, without the required professional support.
We are delighted that the Comic Relief funded project that we ran in the Ntcheu district of Malawi between 2010 and 2015 has proved highly effective in improving maternal, newborn and child health.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health’s Perinatal Care Project, we ran 144 women’s groups that reached 80,000 people and improved the provision of healthcare in 14 health centres.
In the groups, women learnt how to keep themselves and their babies safe – and passed that information onto other women. Together they devised and delivered strategies which improved maternal and child health, such as creating drama groups to share health information, improving sanitation and village hygiene, establishing village savings and loans associations, developing kitchen gardens to improve nutrition and setting up bylaws to discourage early marriages.